Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An Historical Event

Because I'm such an incredible nerd, I just got to thinking about our favorite article twins, a and an. The general rule is to use an in front of a vowel, a in front of a consonant. So it would be a girl, a boy, a hour, an apple, an envelope, an utility.

But those aren’t all right, are they? In fact, spell check is telling me to correct “a hour.” As it should!

To be more specific, a is supposed to be used in front of a consonant sound, while an is used in front of a vowel sound. Though a vowel, u started words often sound like consonants, like the word utopia (you-tope-ee-ah). An utopia doesn’t sound right. But an umlaut (uhm-lout) does!

And that h. Always a trouble maker. Despite what Jon Stewart says, it’s a historical event, not an historical event. The only reason hour comes with an an (I can’t believe I just wrote that…) is that it sounds like “an our.” Another example is the adopted French word hors d’oeuvre, or heir. Always an an, never an a.

Remember: it’s the sound, not the start. : )


  1. I teach grammar and you're right, but I love Jon Stewart so much that I may start saying "a historical event." That is how loyal I am.

  2. My ten year olds stumbled a bit when they first learned this little trick. Now they know just to go with the sound!

  3. I'm glad you cleared that up! ... I wonder if it makes any difference whether you use a soft 'a' - ahhh, or a hard one - eh?

  4. Eeep!

    You just broke one of my braincells. I've never paid attention to it. I guess I went with feeling but never analyzed it.

  5. I think writing is a lot of going with feeling. But if you're like me, you always question why and enjoy analyzing it to death :)


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